Kalisperis honoured for work helping migrants

first_imgThe Brotherhood of St Laurence has honoured the founding father of the Ecumenical Migration Centre (EMC) Johnny Kalisperis in a tribute last Saturday. Kalisperis made settling in Australia for many migrants who were under his aid a positive and significant change. His work in the early wave of migration illustrates the challenges faced and the issues for multiculturalism in Australia then. Born on the island of Cos, Kalisperis migrated to Australia in 1960. As manager of the first EMC club centre, and espresso bar, in North Carlton, Kalisperis and his partner Savas Augoustakis, went into the business of community based help for ethnic migrants. The centre was a bustling hub of men and women migrants largely of Greek origin and Southern Europeans all needing help. His work in the 1970s focused on the welfare focus of the Greek community. As the sole full-time worker of the Greek unit of the EMC, he remained incredibly active within the Greek community in Melbourne. His exceptional counselling skills were recognised in 1977 by the Victorian Council of Social Services for the Community Services Award. He was the first ethnic worker to be recognised for this work. During the 1980s, Kalisperis worked on supporting the youth program of the Australian Greek Welfare Society, the Migration Rehabilitation Advisory Committee and the Consultative Committee on Social Welfare for the Department of Social Security and the Greek Welfare Workers Association. In the 1990s and until his retirement in 2000, the issues faced within his discipline had shifted. During this time, he maintained strong ties with the Australian Greek Welfare Society and served on the Greek committee of the EMC dealing with social security rights and reciprocal agreements between Australia and Greece. Over the four decades Kalisperis dedicated to social justice and rights, he remained a widely respected and dearly loved man in not only the Greek community, but beyond. His contribution to multiculturalism in Australia is phenomenal. At his farewell from the EMC in 2000, the chair of the EMC Basil Varghese said that Kalisperis possessed “extraordinary wisdom and deep understanding for the common good” and “understood the pains and joys of migrants and refugees”. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img